As it stands, the Blues are in front on 19 points with a points differential of 109. On 18 points are the Highlanders with a differential of 82 and the Crusaders with 71. The Hurricanes have 16 points with a differential of 73.
Next week's final round sees the Blues host the Force, the Highlanders away to the Brumbies, the Crusaders away to the Rebels and the Hurricanes hosting the Reds.
Round Four results:
Crusaders 29 Force 21
From the moment former Chiefs wing Toni Pulu stepped through the Crusaders' defence to score the opening try, the reminder was there for the home team – the Force were not going to lie down. The Crusaders scored four of their five tries before halftime to lead 24-14 but their second half was frustrating as they could add only one more, a second for fullback Will Jordan. The Force had long spells on the attack, thoroughly testing the Crusaders defence. The home team had to make 159 tackles compared to only 112 by the Force. And the Force dominated the breakdown all of which pointed to the Crusaders being unable to score the bonus point that would have gone a long way towards easing their path to a final.
Crusaders 29 (Manasa Mataele, Will Jordan 2, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sione Havili Talitui tries; Fergus Burke 2 con) Force 21 (Toni Pulu, Ollie Callan, Jordan Olowofela tries; Domingo Miotti 2 con; Ian Prior con). HT: 24-14
Reds 24 Blues 31
Indiscipline by the home town Reds hit hard after they scored the first try, to No8 Harry Wilson against the Blues in Brisbane. Hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa was sin-binned in the 25th minute, and, in his absence, the Blues picked up two tries to flanker Dalton Papalii and wing Mark Telea to enjoy a 17-7 lead at the turn. They built on that, with skipper Patrick Tuipulotu scoring off a 19-phase movement. Then, in another example of their growing composure, they responded to a contentious try scored by Paenga-Amosa with halfback Finlay Christie sniping his way over for a try to continue his fine late-season run. The Reds struck again through Daugunu's try. He also landed a long-range penalty goal, but the Reds couldn't breach the seven-point gap until the final minute. The Blues ensured that was as close as the Reds got.
Reds 24 (Harry Wilson, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Filipo Daugunu tries; Isaac Henry 3 con; Daugunu pen) Blues 31 (Dalton Papalii, Mark Telea, Patrick Tuipulotu, Finlay Christie tries; Otere Black 4 con, pen). HT: 7-17
Highlanders 59 Waratahs 23
The Highlanders have wanted to string together consecutive wins during the campaign, and back at home under their roof, they put the hapless Waratahs to the sword to make it four in a row, with the bonus of a prospective place in a final. They posted nine tries to two, their defence was outstanding, and they played with confidence to extend the Waratahs' misery. Rising prop Ethan de Groot scored a brace of tries. Wing Jona Nareki also got in on the act with two, as the home side enjoyed a romp. To employ a players' cliché, they 'expressed themselves.' With halfback Aaron Smith on a rest, and flanker Shannon Frizell injured, this was an encouraging reward for the Highlanders, who face a tough hurdle before claiming a finals place being away to the Brumbies next round.
Highlanders 59 (Michael Collins, Sio Tomkinson, Ethan de Groot 2, Ash Dixon, Jona Nareki 2, Kazuki Himeno, Teariki Ben-Nicholas tries; Mitch Hunt 7 con) Waratahs 23 (Jack Maddocks, Mark Nawaqanitawase tries; Will Harrison 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 33-23
Brumbies 12 Hurricanes 10
Facing a Brumbies team enjoying playing at home for the first time in the competition, the Hurricanes came up short in Canberra, but it wasn't for want of opportunities. There were only three tries in the game, two of them to the Brumbies and the third off the back of a lineout for hooker Dane Coles to score. Up 10-7 at halftime, the Hurricanes conceded a try to home centre Len Ikitau, who punished sloppy defence by beating three tackle attempts to cross. A stunning try for prop Alex Fidow was ruled out in the 72nd minute due to an earlier knock-on ruled against captain Ardie Savea. And two later penalty goal attempts were missed by fullback Jordie Barrett.
Brumbies 12 (Ryan Lonergan, Len Ikitau tries; Noah Lolesio con) Hurricanes 10 (Dane Coles try; Jordie Barrett con, pen). HT: 7-10
Chiefs 36 Rebels 26
Having been knocked out of a finals place earlier, the Chiefs were left to play for some pride, and experience, in their transferred home game at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney. The Rebels took the game to the Chiefs and were level at 19-19 at halftime. That was largely the result of some fine play by No8 Isi Naisarani. The Rebels were competitive up-front, but it was the class of the Chiefs backline that spelt the difference in the game. Fullback Kaleb Trask and his substitute Chase Tiatia, and centre Anton Lienert-Brown, scored two tries each, while the Rebels lacked the same cohesion when opportunities presented themselves. However, they did deny the Chiefs a bonus point, something that may have been useful to the Chiefs finishing higher, depending on how the last round of games go.
Chiefs 36 (Kaleb Trask 2, Anton Lienert-Brown 2, Chase Titatia 2 tries; Bryn Gatland 3 con) Rebels 26 (Isi Naisarani 2, Stacey Ili, Andrew Kelleway tries; Matt To'omua 3 con). HT: 19-19